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Bryant still iffy as Lakers approach season opener

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Bryant still iffy as Lakers approach season opener

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) Kobe Bryant has missed the last week of practice with an injury. His teammates still don't know their new offense. And the Los Angeles Lakers just finished the first winless preseason in franchise history.

Ready or not - and most signs point to not - the Lakers' regular season has arrived.

Bryant sat out Monday while his teammates went through a lengthy workout ahead of Tuesday night's opener against Dallas. It's the first of four games in six days for a star-studded club with championship aspirations, but plenty of work ahead.

``I think all of us are ready (for) the popcorn and the lights to come on tomorrow,'' said Dwight Howard, who played in just two preseason games while returning deliberately from back surgery. ``It's not going to come overnight. We all understand that. We just have to stay patient through the whole process. We have to keep working, and we'll be fine.''

Bryant might not be fine for a bit longer. The fifth-leading scorer in NBA history is resting his right foot, which was bruised and strained last week, and the Lakers won't decide whether he'll play against the Mavericks until game time.

He showed up at the Lakers' training complex Monday for treatment and practice, yelling at his teammates from the sideline while Jodie Meeks ran with the Los Angeles' starters.

``We've got to worry about that when it comes, but I can see him playing tomorrow, definitely,'' Metta World Peace said of Bryant. ``When Kobe is hurt, whether it's the preseason or the playoffs, he plays. ... Kobe has never been afraid to be hurt and play. I think his mind is different from other people.''

Indeed, Bryant has played through all manner of injuries in his career, particularly in the past few seasons, so his absence from practice concerns coach Mike Brown. Bryant's leadership and court sense is particularly valuable while the Lakers integrate two new starters and a revamped bench into a new offense, but Kobe hasn't been available for significant stretches of camp.

``If there is one guy that's capable of sitting out and then playing in a game, it's Kobe,'' Brown said. ``There's concern there, because you want him to be healthy, but that's why we're a team. He has bounced back from a lot of stuff. You know it had to be serious if he's been out this long.''

At least Brown had good news on other injuries Monday: Howard is good to go for the Lakers' season-opening back-to-back games and beyond, with no limitations on his minutes, while backup big man Jordan Hill also is expected to play after taking the day off from practice.

While his players heal, the coach is still waiting for his club to grasp the intricacies of its new Princeton-inflected offense. Brown deliberately installed the new schemes slowly, but the absences of Howard and Bryant from several preseason games set back the team's development.

``It obviously gets in the way of our growth when we don't have a full lineup, especially two key guys,'' said Steve Nash, who played sparingly in his first preseason with Los Angeles. ``I think in the long run, we'll get plenty of time. It's just a matter of how quickly we can get some chemistry and some success.''

But the losses couldn't have helped the Lakers' confidence in that offense, either. Los Angeles went 0-8 for the first time, blowing late leads and getting blown out with equal ineptitude.

Brown doesn't believe the preseason reveals anything about his starting lineup's progress or the depth of a bench that hasn't played well at all in October, and he sees the offense as the biggest problem for his defense so far. With more turnovers resulting from poor execution of the offense, Los Angeles' theoretically sturdy defense in front of the dominant Howard has been giving up transition points in bunches.

Yet even amid all of the losses and injuries, the Lakers know they've got the chance for a remarkable season. They've largely avoided commenting on Oklahoma City's trade of James Harden to Houston, ostensibly weakening the defending Western Conference champions and opening the door for Los Angeles a bit wider.

Until the Lakers get a few wins in their own column, they won't be thinking about other teams' losses.

``I see it, I feel it, and I know it's going to be great for us later on,'' Pau Gasol said. ``We just have to stay with it and be persistent.''

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The Caps showed flashes of their mentality with shorthanded win in Colorado

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The Caps showed flashes of their mentality with shorthanded win in Colorado

On November 16, 2017, the Washington Capitals were handed a brutal 6-2 loss in Denver at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche. It was the second blowout loss the team had suffered in as many games and dropped the Caps’ record to 10-9-1. That moment would be the low point of the season.

A year to the day, the Caps returned to Denver. They were given every reason to quit Friday and repeat last year’s disastrous result and yet, the Caps rallied for a 3-2 overtime win to improve their record to 9-7-3.

Coming off a loss Wednesday in Winnipeg, Washington found out earlier on Friday that the team would be without both T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov who had both suffered injuries against the Jets. In net, Braden Holtby was out as well meaning the Caps would have to turn to backup goalie Pheonix Copley for his third start in as many games. Backing him up would be Ilya Samsonov, a highly touted prospect but a player without a single minute of NHL experience.

And, just in case that all did not seem daunting enough, the Caps also spotted the Avalanche a 1-0 lead just 68 seconds into the game.

One year ago, the Caps gave up the first goal of that game just 17 seconds in. When Colorado scored early again, it felt like Friday’s game was going to end up being just like that blowout loss from a year ago.

But it didn’t.

“We were shorthanded, everyone stepped up,” Tom Wilson said. “We talked about guys stepping up before the game and we got it done.”

The Capitals battled back and took control of the game in the first and second periods, tallying two goals to take a 2-1 lead. A late goal by Colorado would tie the game, but Todd Reirden reminded his players of what happened in Montreal – a game in which the Caps gave up three goals in the final four minutes of the game to lose 6-4 – and challenged them not to let that happen again. The team responded.

With all the momentum on the side of the Avalanche, Devante Smith-Pelly drew a holding penalty with less than two minutes remaining and Nicklas Backstrom would score on the resulting power play in overtime.

“When you have a lot of guys hurt, it was nice to see that we really got together, played a good defensive game, everyone was on the same page and blocking shots and doing all the little things right,” Backstrom said.

The game was reminiscent of the Game 6 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs last season. With one win separating them from advancing to the conference final, Washington had to somehow find a way to beat their biggest rival in Pittsburgh and they had to do it with no Nicklas Backstrom, Andre Burakovsky or Tom Wilson. When their backs were against the wall, the Caps responded and managed to defeat the defending Stanley Cup champions 2-1 in overtime.

“It was important for guys to step up in different situations with obviously very key guys out, but we did it in the playoffs,” Smith-Pelly said. “We had key guys out at times. I guess this group is used to guys coming in and out and stepping up.”

The Caps returned most of their Stanley Cup winning roster for the 2018-19 season and fans have been waiting for this year’s team to start playing like last year’s again. A record of 8-7-3 heading into Friday’s game was hardly what people expected from this team early on.

But the win in Colorado was one of the team’s most impressive wins of the season, and perhaps the closest Washington has come since the 7-0 win in the opener to looking like that championship squad. Not because they looked dominant – they didn’t – but because when their backs were against the wall, you saw what this team was really made of mentally. Every time they were challenged in the playoffs – whether it was going down 2-0 to Columbus, playing the unbeatable Penguins, facing elimination against Tampa Bay or facing the red-hot Vegas Golden Knights – the Caps responded.

On Friday, Washington was challenged and again, and the Caps responded.

Last year’s game in Colorado proved to be a turning point. The team was at a cross-roads. They could check out and watch the inevitable coaching and roster shakeup happen, or they could rally to save the season. The Caps made a choice and the rest is history.

Maybe Friday’s game will mean nothing in the greater context of the 82-game season, or maybe this game will again prove to be a turning point. Maybe in the spring we will again circle Nov. 16 and remember it as the game in which the defending champs put the rest of the league on notice that they’re still here, they’re still the champs and they’re not going down without a fight.

“Every time we have injuries, it’s going to happen and it’s going to get other guys to get that opportunity,” Backstrom said. "I thought we played pretty good today, we didn’t give them a whole lot. That was a nice win, we needed that.”

UVA vs. Georgia Tech How to Watch: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

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UVA vs. Georgia Tech How to Watch: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

The Virginia Cavaliers football team is coming off a 21-pt victory last week and has won four of their last five games, yet is an underdog on the road against Georgia Tech.

UVA, at 4-2 (7-3 overall), is trying to stay alive in the ACC Coastal, led by the Pitt Panthers entering Saturday's action. Georgia Tech is also coming into the game on a hot streak, having won five of its last six matchups.

The Yellow Jackets are two games behind Pitt in the loss column, sitting at 4-3 in ACC play, and will finish up their regular season next week at 5th-ranked Georgia. UVA will wrap up on the road as well, facing in-state rival Virginia Tech.

Georgia Tech is favored over UVA by 4.5 points. Here's how to watch.

UVA CAVALIERS vs. GEORGIA TECH YELLOW JACKETS: HOW TO WATCH

What: University of Virginia Cavaliers vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Where: Bobby Dodd Stadium at Grant Field, located in Atlanta, GA.

When: Saturday, November 17 at 3:30 p.m. EST

TV Channel: The Virginia Cavaliers vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)